Explore's Yvonne Ramsay is recently back from a trip to New Zealand. Read her story of and Maori and marine mammals.
"My original idea for this holiday was to simply travel further east than Turkey. However I decided to take it to another extreme and go halfway around the world. New Zealand was the destination and to explore both North and South Island was the plan.
My adventure started in the amazing city of Auckland. Originally meant simply as just the joining point of the tour, it ended up being well worth at least a couple of days stay, allowing time to visit the Imperial Museum, the Sky Tower and the bays. It was a great beginning to my three week adventure on our New Zealand Explorer tour. I would never have imagined the wonders, photo opportunities and adventurous activities that lay ahead of me.
The tour is a full-on itinerary with lots of included adventures coupled with plenty of free time to be as active or as lazy as you want. Starting from Auckland we headed into the Coromandel Peninsula where we could either walk or kayak out to the land of 'Narnia', Cathedral Cove. Next up was staying with some local farmers and having the chance to visit Hobbiton.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for any film fan to visit the Lord of the Rings Shire film set, and it was definitely no surprise that Peter Jackson chose this to be the location of one of the most successful film franchises of all time.
Continuing south, we headed towards the volcanic lands of Rotorua, where the steaming, if slightly smelly, sulphuric lake was a fantastic photo opportunity. Here we also joined a Maori Hangi β a great experience with wonderful food and Maori music. Following this, we headed further south towards wine country β Hawkes Bay. For the wine lovers in the group (all of us!) this was an excellent opportunity to do some tasting.
Our final stop on North Island was the southern tip, Wellington. It's a city full of culture, and home to one of the best museums I have ever visited - Te Papa.
After a short ferry crossing to South Island, we arrived at our first night stop in the coastal town of Kaikoura. There was an opportunity to either rest or take advantage of the chance for some outstanding whale-watching - and who could say no to some whale-watching? We then had the choice of how to cross the island β either on the bus or train. Either option guaranteed outstanding scenery. We crossed over Arthur's Pass, saw snow-capped mountains, bridges and tunnels - the journey was a non-stop photo opportunity.
We arrived on the west of the island at the beautiful bay in Hokitika and were ready to head into the land of the glaciers. We visited both Franz Josef and Fox Glacier β both different and unique experiences β before heading down into Fjordland to an unforgettable boat trip through Milford Sound and another unique experience - visiting the glow worm caves at Te Anau.
Being from bonnie Scotland myself, Dunedin was another highlight - a wee home away from home before heading back up South Island to finish the tour in Christchurch. En route I had the most awesome experience ever β a helicopter flight over glaciers and Mount Cook, with the chance to step off on what I felt was the top of the world. An unforgettable experience.
And that's all to say nothing of the wildlife-spotting opportunities from beginning to end β starting with gannets in Auckland, marine mammals in Kaikoura, penguins and seals throughout, plus the wild Kia parrot and many other birds.
In all, what was originally going to be a quick break turned into the trip of a lifetime..."
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